|Our one-bedroom discovery in Hell's Kitchen|
I hate to admit this, but I am hooked! This is coming from a hotelier. Airbnb.com is the real deal and if my first experience with this online booking site is a good indication, then hang on tight because airbnb could be the next Travelocity or Orbitz for the global traveler.
I am a big fan of vrbo.com; a global villa rental site which I have used in the past. Airbnb takes it down a notch where travelers can book individual rooms to huge villas around the globe. In fact, I saw one host who was offering a couch! The site even has categories for igloos and tree houses. Hey, why not? During my search for listings in New York area,I saw rates from $27 for a single room in Queens to several hundred dollars in Manhattan. There are a myriad of options available in most cities. In fact, Grand Rapids have a few places listed. The navigation on the site is quite intuitive and has all kinds of tools (and reviews) to help narrow down your options.
I used airbnb on this trip to NYC to give my daughter a sense of what it's like to live like a local in NYC. She and I visited NYU and Columbia on this segment of our college tour. We found a one bedroom in Hell's Kitchen, just two blocks from Times Square. It was a perfect home base between the schools. The photos and description on the site were quite accurate and it gave us an honest indication of what to expect from our visit.
After reading the guest reviews and the host's profile, I went ahead and booked it with my credit card. Within seconds, I received an email from airbnb informing me that they received my reservations and that he host had 24-hours to finalize the rent of his space. Within three hours though, I received an email from the host confirming our reservations. His email and cell phone where also included.
I called our host to confirm our itinerary. We made arrangements to meet at the apartment at our ETA of 11:00 PM on a Sunday. No problem. Luis, our host, made me very secure about our reservations. He was genuine in his hospitality. So genuine that he even emailed me the day before we left for NYC to offer to pick us up in Newark for a fee (which was a lot less than a cab ride). I would have taken him up on it if I hadn't made arrangements with a car service.
Luis was at the apartment when we arrived. He gave us a quick orientation of his apartment which was about double the size of a typical hotel room. He shared some local dining options and left us with a subway map, city guide and the apartment keys. My only expectation is to find the apartment as he described the place to be online. And it was. The living room was bright with three tall windows overlooking the intersection. The black leather sofa was comfortable and stylish. The small, narrow kitchen was fully equipped with all the basic appliances (which we never used). French doors separated the living room from the bedroom where a queen sized futon and a loft bed were housed. The bathroom with a stand up shower, was tiny as tiny could get, but it worked just fine. Cable TV and wireless connection were not installed yet, but was slated to be installed in the coming weeks.
Our apartment was the gateway to "restaurant row" on 46th street between and 8th and 9th Avenue. Cabs were everywhere at any given time and the subway was 5 blocks away on 8th and 50th. The area felt very residential despite the fact that it was steps from Times Square.
Our overall experience: A+ for Airbnb.com, A + for our host Luis and A for our Manhattan pad. And I'm sure you've been wondering how much we paid for the apartment - $100 per night plus a $40 service fee. That's it! So our grade for value = A++.
Would I recommend my friends to use the site? Absolutely. And if you are in need of a nice one bedroom apartment near Midtown, then tell Luis that I send my best.
Click here to explore Airbnb.
Click here to see Luis' listing in Manhattan.